The ex-girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein has claimed that she is facing sex abuse charges because prosecutors wanted a substitute to replace him with, amid the media “frenzy” after he died last year.
The lawyers of Ghislaine Maxwell, 59, made the claims in court papers that were filed last week and unsealed on Thursday, as they attempted to challenge her prosecution.
“One does not need to engage in complex analysis to understand what has happened here: the government has sought to substitute our client for Jeffrey Epstein, even if it means stretching — and ultimately exceeding — the bounds of the law,” the lawyers wrote in the documents.
“The government's sudden zeal to prosecute Ms Maxwell for alleged conduct with Epstein in the 1990s — conduct for which the government never even charged Epstein — follows a history that is both highly unusual and deeply troubling,” they added.
Ms Maxwell was charged last summer with six counts of recruiting and grooming girls and young women to be sexually abused by both her and Epstein, her former business partner and boyfriend.
The former socialite was charged a year after Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges. He died by suicide in prison a month after being detained amid intense media scrutiny surrounding the case.
Ms Maxwell has been held in a Brooklyn prison without bail since she was arrested in July 2020, as a judge felt that the 59-year-old, who has US, UK and French citizenship, remained a flight risk.
Her lawyers argued in the documents unsealed on Thursday that prosecutors did not arrest Ms Maxwell alongside Epstein and only went after her when he died and the media attention shifted to their client.
“She was portrayed as Epstein's equal — if not his superior — and baselessly caricatured as a villain of near-mythical proportions,” Ms Maxwell’s lawyers said about the media coverage following Epstein's death.
“In short, the government's response to the media frenzy was not to adhere to its earlier objective analysis and consideration of the facts, but to feed the frenzy and substitute Ms Maxwell for Epstein,” they added.
The documents unsealed on Thursday also revealed that Ms Maxwell’s lawyers filed two motions to dismiss all the counts in her criminal case.
Lawyers argued in the first motion that the charges of conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts should be dropped because the alleged crimes took place more than two decades ago.
“Because Counts One through Four charge Ms Maxwell with offences that were completed no later than 1997, and because the indictment was not returned until July 2020, these counts are time-barred unless ‘otherwise expressly provided by law,'” the filing states.
A separate filing also asked for a judge to dismiss the two counts that charge Ms Maxwell of perjury for allegedly lying in a civil defamation suit about knowing Epstein had sex with underage girls.
“These counts fail, as a matter of law, because the questions posed were ambiguous, the answers given were true, and both the questions and answers were immaterial to the defamation action. Accordingly, the Court should dismiss Counts Five and Six,” her lawyers argued.
Ms Maxwell is currently being held at the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn following her arrest on 2 July 2020 and is awaiting trial.
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